The Abecedarian Project

FPG's Abecedarian Project, one of the world’s oldest and most oft-cited early childhood education programs, marked its 42nd anniversary last year with groundbreaking findings from principal investigator Frances A. Campbell, Nobel laureate James J. Heckman, and their colleages—as well as several new international initiatives that showcase adaptations of the curriculum that the project first developed four decades ago.

Since its inception and early leadership from Craig Ramey, Joseph Sparling, and others, the Abecedarian Project has become synonymous with positive, long-term effects of high-quality early care and education, particularly with regard to the power of early intervention to surmount some of the disadvantages of poverty. Children born between 1972 and 1977 were randomly assigned as infants to either the early educational intervention group or the control group.

Children in the experimental group received full-time, high-quality educational intervention in a childcare setting from infancy through age 5. Each child had an individualized prescription of educational "games" incorporated into the day. These activities focused on social, emotional, and cognitive areas of development but gave particular emphasis to language.

Researchers monitored children's progress over time with follow-up studies conducted at ages 12, 15, 21, 30, and 35. The findings continue to demonstrate that important, long-lasting benefits are associated with the high-quality early childhood program.